Friday, October 2, 2009

Film review: 'Gotta Dance' charming tale of unlikely dance sensations

The hip-hop seniors of Gotta Dance.

By Hap Erstein

The movies generally ignore the population over 55, unless it is to poke fun at the old geezers. But with so many Baby Boomers approaching that age range, they have become a subject of considerable fascination and, perhaps, box office.

The latest documentary on this senior subculture, opening in Palm Beach County today, is called Gotta Dance, the lighthearted tale of a group of fish out of water, 60-plus-agers vying to be chosen for a new dance group formed to entertain the NBA’s New Jersey Nets fans at halftime with hip-hop routines. While there is no direct link between this movie and last year’s Young@Heart, about a senior chorus that sings heavy metal hits, comparisons are inevitable.

Young@Heart had a more dramatic bent, as its chorus members began flirting with mortality as they neared a crucial concert. Gotta Dance -- first seen locally at the Palm Beach International Film Festival -- does not have a similar emotional tug, but it is nevertheless well shot and assembled by director Dori Berinstein (ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway) and contains an ingratiating cast of characters worth rooting for.

The group, dubbed the NETSational Seniors, is chosen after endearingly nerve-wracking auditions, not unlike those in A Chorus Line, except the competitors are strictly amateurs who are completely at sea in the ocean of hip-hop. Still, without too much trauma, 12 women and one courageous guy -- the only male who auditioned -- are chosen and molded into a genial, progressively less awkward dance troupe.

Berinstein tries to generate some suspense over the NETSations’ ability to execute these homeboy moves, particularly in front of a crowd of 19,000 in the Meadowlands Arena. But they are an instant hit with the sports fans in their debut performance and Gotta Dance peaks a bit early.

After their initial triumph, they go on a media blitz of television morning shows, become minor celebrities in print and, briefly, let the attention go to their heads. Still, it is hard not to like, if not relate, to these folks, either current or retired teachers, secretaries, city workers and a few medical professionals. Two of the oldest members of the group, Marge, 83, and Fanny, 81, are grandmothers of Nets cheerleaders who double as the group’s choreographers.

At 95 minutes, Gotta Dance feels a bit overlong, but the appeal of its dancers does not flag.

GOTTA DANCE. Studio: Dramatic Forces; Director: Dori Berinstein; Not rated. Continues through Sunday at Cinema Paradiso, Fort Lauderdale; opening today at Delray Square 18, Delray Square, and Movies of Delray, in Delray Beach; Shadowood 16 in Boca Raton; and Movies of Lake Worth 6 in Lake Worth.

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